Many of us know by now where we will be Friday at 4:15pm PT. For those who don’t know the game is on CBS. For Oregon there is one goal. To continue playing in the NCAA Tournament. The media has made this out to be a David vs Goliath matchup giving the Ducks nothing but the mention that they are playing probably the Top Team in the Country.
We know plenty about the Pac 12. Louisville in in the Big East, along with Syracuse among other teams. I turned to Cam Newton, writer for Fansided Louisville’s Big Red Louie to dispense some knowledge about the Cardinals.
We know they like to press on Defense and that they have some stars on offense, Newton explains, “Louisville’s defense is, as most know and as you said, incredibly strong; by most standards, it is the best defense in the country. Something they aren’t as prolifically known for is their offense. Louisville is a classic Rick Pitino team. It’s a team built around a strong defense. One so strong that, even if their offense is looking atrocious throughout the course of a game, they can still pull out the victory, as was the case earlier in the year where the Cards beat Syracuse in the Carrier Dome after shooting only 30%. Luckily, it hasn’t come to that much this season.”
Oregon has shot between 30-45 percent in a good deal of it’s games this year, this is a similarity with the Cardinals as Newton continues, “As an added fact, Louisville ranks OUTSIDE of the top 100 in FG % this year, at about 45%. But they still have 31 wins. This all goes right back to that defensive efficiency that’s based around that strong backcourt tandem of Smith and Siva.”
As the Ducks have had their playmakers this season, so has Louisville, “There’s no doubt who the offensive catalyst is for this team-Russ Smith, the guard who is never afraid to have the ball in his hands. Without Russ, it’s questionable as to how well this team would have been this season. Gorgui and Siva are both great all-around, but neither have quite the shooting abilities that Russ has. He is THE playmaker and the player Oregon will have to watch most. With his hands and quickness, he will run up and snatch the ball, rush down court, and score before you can even bat an eye. You can blink and he’d already have 20 points and 5+ steals on you. He’s just that quick. Oregon will need to try their hardest to contain him. That’s easier said than done. He’s only been held under 10 points 3 times this season, one of those being the loss @ Villanova. Oregon will need to try and use his quickness and steal attempts to their advantage by getting him in foul trouble and trying to make him play so quickly offensively that he turns the ball over. But that’s the bad thing about playing Louisville.”
Similar to the Ducks, Louisville is solid on the bench, “You get one guard in foul trouble and there’s another one right there that’s equally as talented. Siva can’t quite shoot as well as Russ, but he’s just as nasty and quick defensively and is the obvious floor general for this team, dishing out assists, calling plays, etc.”
Where does Newton see the focus for the Ducks? “Oregon needs to keep their focus on this backcourt. Although, even if they do that, Gorgui and Chane are always in the post ready to throw it down and make the tough plays. Just a hard team to play against due to the all-around talent.”
There are a lot of similarities to these two teams as you are beginning to see. Another area is injuries, as Oregon was without Freshman Dominic Artis for a month of the Pac 12 Season, Louisville was also without key players this season, on was an ACL injury to Guard Mike Marra last season, who was attempting a comeback and reinjured his ACL going into his senior year before it even started. The other injury was more serious for the team. Defensive Player of the Year Gurgui Dieng broke a bone in his wrist and was out 4-6 weeks. However other players were able to step in and step up. Newton explains, ” Ultimately, Dieng missed 4-6 weeks, including the championship game of that tourney (which they lost to Duke). In that time frame of Gorgui’s absence, Louisville lost to Duke and had some very close calls against Illinois State and Memphis, ultimately winning both. In the time during Gorgui’s injury, Louisville Forwards Stephan Van Treese and Montrezl Harrell saw a significant rise in their playing time, and made up for the loss of Louisville’s star center by providing an excellent post presence, rebounding the ball very well.”
Going into Friday’s Tournament Game, Oregon is on a roll. Damyean Dotson scored 23 against St Louis, his first five 3 point attempts were good. Louisville is built for defense, but there is a player to watch that will impact the game.
Newton says, “I think it goes without saying that Russ Smith is on fire at the moment. After scoring 23 and 27 points in the first two games of the NCAA tournament and hitting 4-7 from three point land in the game against Colorado State, Russ Smith has just been on. This is something that is very pleasing to see, considering the fact that he isn’t always the best at shooting for the Cards. If he gets too trigger-happy on a night that he’s not hitting, the Cards could very well be sent home.”
Cam Newton writes for Fansided’s BigRedLouie(Louisville Cardinals) site.
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